tv Hardball With Chris Matthews MSNBC October 26, 2011 2:00am-3:00am EDT
reboot hill. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews down in washington. leading off tonight, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. in a little more than a month, big, bad rick perry has gone from leader of the pack, to one step removed, to also ran. time to reboot? time to double down on cutting
taxes for the wealthy. on birtherism, because he says it's fun. and for his attacks on mitt romney. today was reserved for his plan to cut federal programs while making the rich pay, of course, less. also, which of the following statements is not true? a, president obama routed moammar gadhafi without losing a single american life. b, he launched the raid that killed osama bin laden. c, he's ending the iraq war, as promised. d, republicans are praising president obama for his successful foreign policy. you bet, the answer is "d." why won't the republicans give the president credit for doing things they support and didn't get done themselves? plus, what do you make of this herman cain ad? >> we need you to get involved, because together we can do this. we can take this country back. ♪ i am america >> well, that's in your face. cain doesn't seem to be taking
his campaign all that seriously, even taking his ad seriously. the only ones taking cain seriously are the voters, it seems, who have him up at number one in the republican polls. and it's president obama versus mitch mcconnell over whether the wealthy should pay a little more to keep teachers, fire fighters and police on the job. guess who thinks it's more important to keep taxes low on the rich? and let me finish tonight with what's going on in the republican party. it's weird. we start with the rebooting of rick perry. howard fineman's an msnbc political analyst and "the huffington post" media group editorial director. and dana milbank is a columnist for "the washington post," who appears quite regularly and wondrously on page two. this afternoon, perry called the birther issue a distraction, but just last night in an interview with cnbc's john harwood, perry
said it was a good issue to keep alive. let's watch this performance. >> it's a good issue to keep alive. just, you know, donald's got to have some fun, so -- and the issue is this. >> it sounds like you really do have some doubt about it? >> look, i haven't seen his -- i haven't seen his grades. my grades ended up on the front page of the newspaper, so let's, you know, if we're going to show stuff, let's show stuff. but look, that's all a distraction. i mean, i get it. i'm really not worried about the president's birth certificate. it's fun to poke at him a little bit and say, hey, how about -- let's see your grades and your birth certificate. >> you know, i use these words carefully. that's a clown's performance. he's running for president of the united states. he's saying the president of the united states may not be an american-born citizen. therefore, if you follow
logically, an illegal alien, and that's only something i'm doing to have fun with. that's -- and then he tries to laugh. harwood's a serious journalist. he's not laughing with him. who's laughing with this guy? >> well, clowns are funny. that wasn't funny. >> yeah. >> and it really was too worlds. it was john harwood trying to get a serious answer out of the guy. and it's rick perry basically saying don't pay attention to anything i'm saying. don't take what i'm saying seriously, because i sort of mean it or i don't mean it, and it's all political theater anyway. it's a good issue to keep alive. >> yeah. >> what does that mean? >> well, what's this pee-wee herman stuff. why does he behave like pee-wee herman? even pee-wee herman is an actor playing pee-wee herman. is this guy playing what he thinks is a presidential candidate? >> i think rick perry is stunned
and baffled, because he was supposed to be -- just waltz into this race and walk away with the whole thing. and then everything fell apart. and he's saying, all right, what went wrong? and i think what he's come to the conclusion of is maybe i wasn't crazy enough. you know, before i used to talk about -- before i used to talk about secession, so, okay, i'm maybe not secession, but we're back with the birther movement. >> look, i'm serious about this. i take it seriously who runs this country. we've got serious problems. he's the best the right wing could offer. howard, he's the one they put up to knock off mitt romney, the moderate republican, the one they didn't trust. he's the best they had. they beat the drum for this guy for months. oh, wait until rick perry gets into this battle. >> here's what heartfelt conservatives need to worry about. and heartfelt conservative republicans. two of their leading candidates have basically said, i'm joking. you remember herman cain said, i want to build a 20-foot fence, and i want to put an electric barbed wire all across it. >> right. >> and then somebody said, really? and he said, no, i was joking. and then he said after that, well, actually, i wasn't quite joking. you know, we need to have a big fence. >> yeah. >> so now rick perry comes along and says, where's the birth certificate? he said first in "parade" magazine, and then he does this thing with harwood. and both of them come off as people who are playacting at
running for president, playacting at having serious conservative values. i mean, where are the serious, thoughtful conservatives who really are offering solutions to problems that pencil, in other words, that add up, and that aren't meant to be a joke? so conservatives are frustrated, because they've got mitt romney, who's still out there. the reason they're frustrated is they don't have a serious -- don't appear to have a serious candidate. >> let's give some -- it's not just that they go after birther i feel, which i think is insulting to the country. he's our president, as well as being a democrat, he's our president. and to joke about whether he's an american or not or he's somebody who snuck in under the border or is a kenyan or whatever, is an insult. and now he's going into taxes. taxes bother people. they're heavy in this country. maybe not as heavy as they have to be at some point, but they're heavy and they hurt people. now here he is with this plan. i'll ask you guys what you think of this so-called plan. he unfurled, i should say, this economic plan. the plan gives taxpayers the option of playing a flat 20% tax, or they can keep their old
rates. the plan also calls for lowering the corporate tax rate to 20%. here is rick perry today in south carolina, touting the simplicity of his plan. well, you'd expect simplicity from him. let's watch. >> each individual taxpayer will have a choice. you can continue to pay your taxes, as well as the accountants and the lawyers, under the current tax system that we got, or you can file your taxes on this postcard. >> just reminds me of a bobblehead. i mean, here he is, an interview with john harwood, as i said, a serious journalist. he defended the plan, even though it would overwhelmingly help the wealthiest americans, whose rate is higher than 20%. everybody else is lower. it's clearly aimed directly at helping the rich in a time that everybody resents that 1% having a special -- here he is, by the way. he said critics of the plan were engaging in class warfare. let's watch. >> americans, i hope, aspire to be wealthy. i hope they aspire to have a better quality of life. and we have this class warfare that's going on now. and i don't agree with that.
i'm interested in people getting to work. and folks who generally have money are the ones who invest money, that hire folks, so that those folks who get hired can work their way up to become some day owning the company. >> this is worthless argument that rich people create jobs, therefore, tax them less. they have -- it is a brilliant trick of the mind. they make more money, they have more money, therefore, tax them less so that, what? >> well, look, this isn't the proposal of a serious presidential candidate. this is a guy who is sitting at 6% in "the new york times" poll. >> and dropping. >> right. and dropping like a stone. he's just barely ahead of rick santorum, who's arguably not really much of a candidate at all. what he's done now is no longer vying with mitt romney to make a serious proposal, he says, look, it's a hail mary. i've got one more time to galvanize all of the tea party folks. and if it doesn't work -- >> who cheers this nonsense? birtherism, tax rates aimed directly at the wealthiest 1%. who says, wow, this guy is doing
my work for me. >> here's the irony of it, chris. having talked to people on both the democratic side and conservative side about this plan, if you take it seriously for a minute. obviously, the democrats and progressives don't like it because of what you've been saying about cutting rates for the rich, which it would do. but the conservatives don't really like it either, because he's not really sweeping away the existing tax system. he's just saying, you can have this as an alternative. so all those lawyers and accountants and all those people he's complaining about, for some people, are still going to be there. >> sure, they get a better deal. >> sometimes when you get criticized from all sides, it means you've come up with a brilliant idea. in this case, when he's being criticized by all sides, he's basically being laughed off the stage. >> and the idea of a multiple choice tax format is an absurd idea. by the way, i love the idea that everybody can do the short form. it'd be great. just fill it out on the way home
from work one night, on the train or whatever, just fill it out at lunchtime or whatever and you'd be done. that's great. that's not what he's offering. what he's offering is basically a single rate, a rate that's going to help the rich. and calling it simple. >> and a lower rate for investments as well. i don't think he's offering this as a serious proposal. he threw out private accounts for social security. wait, weren't we through this once already? he knows that's not the direction we're going, and he's just throwing out something to make this -- >> let's put it this way. the last thing rick perry wants to do now is to sit down and have another half-hour interview with john harwood, all about his new tax proposal. >> i'll tell you, it's getting to be tricky. who's less serious, who is less informed, him or cain? informed, him or cain? >> boy, michele bachmann's looking better every day. >> who's less informed? i know it's a rhetorical question, you can abstain on this question, but according to republican strategist alex
castellanos, who advised mitt romney in 2008, rick perry will go after romney in the hopes of raising his own profile. he told politico that the perry camp will blanket tvs with negative romney ads. he added, "perry won't just go negative. he'll make your television bleed and beg for mercy." you know, what you want to hear from is one of the lightest minds in the world, the lightest intellects, yelling as loud as possible. that's what he's going to be doing. >> well, he won't be doing it himself. >> the ads will. >> the ads will be brilliantly done, dark, noirish kinds of things. and rick perry is a mean son of a gun. this is a guy who went jogging with a pistol, you know, so he's a tough guy from west texas, and he's going to put all his money and his chips on the destruction of mitt romney. >> all the producers and i were trying to figure out, why do you want to be known as the guy who's just towel snapping at the president of the united states? just taunting with him, just playing with him, as he put it. here's a party that i just keep on the list. they want more people to fry, they love executions. they want people who don't have insurance to die on the gurney in the hospital bed. they want that to happen.
they want -- forget about illegal aliens. gay soldiers, forget about them. they're not -- they're there to be booed. if you're homeless, foreclose -- if you have a home, foreclose on the people. if you're a teacher, fireman or a cop, get rid of the guy! this attitude of causing cruel pain on people and getting cheers for it, what's that about, howard? you're giving me that look. i want to know where these candidates are heading with this. >> well, i'm not sure of the answer, except so say that that attitude of mean resentment is very much out there in the country, and it's all over the place. i wouldn't say it's just confined to the nether reaches of the republican party. >> but the big government that was a big problem, all americans love to bitch about the government, that's normal. but not liking fire fighters and teachers, not liking people who are sick, who are fighting, that are exiting. you have to boo them on the way out? >> people are at the point, we're in a revolution of declining expectations about their own future and their
family's future, and they're looking for people to lash out at. and by the way, barack obama is so despised by the base of the republican party that anything rick perry or herman cain says is acceptable to them. >> so if you say he's a foreigner from kenya, he's not really an american, he's an illegal alien. >> they love it. >> they just cheer it. >> and rick perry has basically decided the prospects of him reaching the general election are so remote, it's worth gambling and doing that. >> so what's his goal at this point? >> i think it's maybe lightning strikes and galvanize his support, and in other words, he goes out in a blaze of glory. >> i showed them. >> it worked well for a while for that one from alaska. >> you're very good at satire, dana, and i don't think you can satirize this guy. >> i don't think you can go further than who he is. the job's done. the cake's baked. thank you. coming up, gadhafi, bin laden, the end of a bad war in iraq. president obama's had an impressive string of foreign policy successes, so why is he getting so little credit actually for keeping america safe? that's my question. it's also roger simon's question. you're watching "hardball," only on msnbc.
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well, the iowa caucuses are coming up on january 3rd this year, right after new year's, and we've also got a new university of iowa poll out. herman cain right now is leading. look at these numbers. 37% of the vote out there in iowa right now. mitt romney's down at 27. that's quite a lead for that fellow from atlanta, followed by ron paul at 12. newt gingrich, rick perry, and michele bachmann are all down there in single digits. nothing seems to change except perry goes down, cain goes up, and, of course, mitt romney stays the same. 70 days to go until iowa. we'll be right back.
this president, for the last year and a half, has made some very poor national security decisions that i'm afraid are going to come back to haunt this country. these decisions that the president obama is making, i think are strategically unsound, and our people need to step up and challenge him. we've got a jobs problem, we've got a national security problem that's growing by the day.
>> well, that's inexplicable, what he just said there. well come -- welcome back to "hardball." that was senator lindsey graham on fox, this sunday laying out his criticism against president obama's foreign policy, and on national security. and the self-serving and tone-deaf republican criticism, which i include that with, comes in spite of the president's remarkable successes in both areas of defense and national security over the past few months, including launching the dramatic raid that killed osama bin laden. roger simon is chief political columnist of the politico and evan cohn is an nbc news terrorist analyst. roger, thank you for joining us and thank you for that column this morning, which inspired me to think about what you were thinking. and that's this strange world. i want you both to see this now. here's a montage, as we say on tv, of the president announcing all these various successes i mentioned. as a reminder, all of these events have taken place in just the past half year. let's listen. >> tonight, i can report to the
american people and to the world that the united states has conducted an operation that killed osama bin laden, the leader of al qaeda. earlier this morning, anwar al awlaki, the leader of al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, was killed in yemen. the death of awlaki is a major blow to al qaeda's most active operational affiliate. today we can definitively say that the gadhafi regime has come to an end. faced with the potential of mass atrocities and a call for help from the libyan people, the united states and our friends and allies stopped gadhafi's forces in their tracks. so, today, i can report that as promised, the rest of our troops in iraq will come home by the end of the year. after nearly nine years, america's war in iraq will be over. >> roger, old buddy, there's an alice in wonderland quality to this. think back to the friday after 9/11, where the president of the
united states very dramatically stood next to the fire fighter, put his arm around him and said, we're going to get the people that knocked down these walls. who got 'em? barack obama got 'em. who's trying to fire fighters right now? fighters right now? the republican party of george w. bush. this is "alice in wonderland." your thoughts? you inspired this discussion. >> there's been a strange reversal. the democratic party has become the party of national defense, anti-terrorism. the republicans always said that they were the strong military party. they were the daddy party. they would protect us. the democrats were the mommy party. all they cared about was social concerns. they couldn't protect us. now we see a president, not by choice, but by necessity, who has become the leading anti-terrorist in the world. he has, as the montage showed, at sort of a minimal loss of u.s. life, almost none, done all these amazing things, and he can't get the republicans to give him credit for any of them.
and i'm not so sure that even the people of america, concerned about their jobs, are willing to give him credit now. but once he's running against a real republican instead of some concept of an anti-obama who will be perfect, i think he will start to make some ground off of this. >> well, we'll see. by the way, that mommy and daddy division was something, that somebody i know kicked up in the new republic about 20 years ago. i'm sitting here right now. but a good correction on an old theory. anyway, let's go right now -- let me go back to evan cohen. your sense, evan, as an expert on terrorism. it does seem objectively that the cards are turning properly for us these days, that the people fighting terrorism seem to be getting the upper hand lately. >> who would have imagined that five years after the height of the war in iraq, that there would be crowds of people
cheering the united states, cheering nato, in a major arab country? i mean, that's almost bizarre. back in 2005, that would have been unheard of. and not to mention the fact that president bush, back in december 2001, had an opportunity to go in and get bin laden. we knew where he was, he was in a specific location, we surrounded him. and at the time, the decision was made that it wasn't worth taking the risk. president obama took that risk. and it could have gone -- it could have gone bad, it could have gone real bad. he took the risk, it was a good risk, and guess what, we got bin laden. it was a courageous decision, and it's unfortunate that he doesn't get more credit for that. because i think it was a difficult decision. it certainly -- during that raid, i'm sure a lot of people were wondering whether or not the president had a political future. and now it's been forgotten. >> and i also think it's fair to bring up, and somebody will be the democratic side, roger and evan, that the previous
president, george w. bush, made a point of saying on camera one time, i'm not really focused on getting bin laden, which i thought was an odd, almost weird way of saying something that he shouldn't have been saying, but he's trying to say, it's no big deal, anyway. the latest poll from the associated press shows something interesting. it shows that most americans now, 64%, approve of the way president obama has handled terrorism issues, while only 40% approve of his handling of the economy. so that is a reasonable -- 46%, rather. so this is a reasonable way of looking at things, i would say. don't you think? roger? >> yeah, it is. and the american people are giving him high points for protecting the nation. the trouble with it is, everyone thinks that the next election will be decided on domestic issues and not foreign ones. we don't know that for sure. but, you know, there's one big thing that's going to help the president out. when the republicans finally nominate someone, he's going to have to pass the test that all americans subconsciously submit candidates to, which is, will this person protect the country? will he protect the -- my family?
will he, as hillary clinton famously said in a commercial, answer the 3:00 a.m. phone call and know what he is doing? and the question becomes, would barack obama be better at it or herman cain? barack obama or perry? barack obama or romney? i mean, i think past that, you don't have to even consider the rest of the republican field. >> we'll see what that choice looks like. let's take a look here at the republicans, the way they're sizing it up. here's roger, and everyone, what they've been saying, saying about president obama on foreign policy and national security. let's listen. >> the president indicated and his administration indicated over the summer and fall that they were working to have a status of forces agreement that would keep troops in place. they indicated they were working on that effort. and they either failed to do it
by virtue of ineptitude or decided that it wasn't that important, politically or otherwise. and to understand whether their failure was due to politics or due to ineptitude, we'd have to hear from the military commanders on the ground. >> the president has announced what will be seen by historians as a decisive defeat for the united states in iraq. >> and to be in a position where really the iranians now have more sway over the iraqi government than the united states just shows the weakness of our diplomatic effort, the weakness of this president, in being able to shape the battlefield, if you will. >> i think president obama clearly is not respected, the united states is not respected, and the president has been a failure when it comes to foreign policy. >> you know, evan, i don't quite get it, but i guess it's just sheer politics. >> the government of malaki over in iraq, which we've stood up, has asked us to leave at the end of the year after all of this commitment of troops and blood
and treasure and limb going way back to 2003. it seems to me that wars should end at some point. they've told us it's time to end it. how can newt gingrich say this is a defeat, to all the service people over there? a defeat? what does he -- he will say -- he is will say anything that hurts the other side. >> what do you think people have less respect for, that we invaded iraq under mistaken pretenses or we're withdrawing after ten years? i think the answer is these candidates need to answer the fundamental question. >> well said. >> why did we get into iraq to begin with? >> to stay forever. their definition of success is to remain there as a colonial power forever, and if we ever come home, that's called defeat. roger simon, great to have you on. evan, thank you. i think we agree, the president deserves credit for the facts on the ground, as the right likes to say, because on the ground, he looks pretty good. it's up in the air where the bs flies that he's having a problem with the republicans. up next, televangelist, of all people, pat robertson, is sounding the alarm bells about
the republican presidential field going too far right. catch the sideshow, coming up next. you're watching "hardball," only on msnbc. back to "hardball." so i took my heartburn pill and some antacids. we're having mexican tonight, so another pill then? unless we eat later, then pill later? if i get a snack now, pill now? skip the snack, pill later... late dinner, pill now? aghh i've got heartburn in my head. [ male announcer ] stop the madness of treating frequent heartburn. it's simple with prilosec otc. one pill a day. twenty-four hours. zero heartburn. no heartburn in the first place. great.
back to "hardball." now for the sideshow. first off, to the crazy talk. radical televangelist pat robertson has some words of wisdom for the 2012 gop lineup. think he has some fire of his own to add to the lineup. you'll be surprised. let's listen. >> i think it was lyndon johnson who said, don't these people realize as they push me over to an extreme position, i'll lose the election. those people in the republican primary have got to lay off of this stuff. they're forcing their leaders, the front-runners, into positions that will mean they'll lose the general election. they've got to stop this! it's just so counterproductive. well, if they want to lose, this is the game for losers. >> wow. well, this coming from the guy
who said earlier this year that it would be reasonable to divorce your spouse if they are diagnosed with alzheimer's. well, if he says things are going overboard with the extreme comments out there on the right, it's time for them to re-evaluate, don't you think? next up, in the hot seat, gop candidate jon huntsman stopped by "the colbert report" last night and was game for everything, from his previous post as ambassador to china to his rather low standing in the polls. he must have known it was all coming, am i right? well, let's listen. >> you speak mandarin, do you not? >> i do. >> okay. say the most non-scary thing -- if you don't mind -- would you say the most non-scary nicest thing in mandarin, please. [ speaking foreign language ] >> terrifying. what did you just say? what did you just say? >> i just said, i think that you'd ought to consider being my running mate for vice president. >> well, sir, recent polls, you are at 2%. are you ready for the colbert bump? >> i am so ready for the colbert
bump. >> we're going to get you -- governor, you may be at 2%, we're going to get you up to whole milk. >> now we had him here last week. it seemed like he was hoping the colbert bump had a little more substance to it. anyway, fast forward to this evening's late night scene, who's hitting up "the tonight show" tonight with jay leno? none other than president obama himself. and we've got an advanced highlight, actually, from the back and forth, which was taped earlier today. let's listen to tonight's "tonight." >> now, have you been watching the gop debates? >> um, i'm going to wait until everybody's voted off the island. >> really? >> before -- once they narrow it down to one or two, i'll start paying attention. >> funny stuff. although, we know from his previous comments, he hasn't waited until everyone gets voted
off the island. he has caught the more unsavory moments of the debate, such as when audience members booed a gay soldier over in iraq. that was one of the glimpses the president caught. he's obviously been taking a look now and then at the other side of the race. by the way, catch the president on "the tonight show" tonight, the whole show with jay leno tonight, of course, on nbc. up next, herman cain is still leading in the polls, but his latest ad has a lot of people wondering how serious a candidate he really is. wait until you catch this ad, a strange ad, with smoking in it! you're watching "hardball" only on msnbc.
welcome back to "hardball." the rise of presidential candidate herman cain continues to rise in the race for the republican nomination. it's been the talk of politics lately. a recent ad, by the way, featuring his campaign coo mark block is all the buzz on youtube. let's watch this bizarre ad by herman cain. >> since january, i've had the privilege of being the chief of staff to herman cain and the chief operating officer of the friends of herman cain. tomorrow is one day closer to the white house. i really believe that herman cain will put united back in the united states of america. and if i didn't believe that, i wouldn't be here. we need you to get involved, because together, we can do this. we can take this country back. ♪ i am america ♪ one voice united we stand
♪ i am america >> it is so good, that ad. and i don't know why, exactly. so how does the energizer bunny of politics just keep going and going, while the establishment coalesces boringly around mitt romney? is the joke on the gop? johnson harris is editor in chief of politico, and gene robinson is the columnist for "the washington post" and an msnbc political analyst. gene, you're here, so i've got to ask you this first. i am telling you, could we live in such a phenomenal world? i remember, i've got to be careful, but i remember the acc, right, the atlantic coast conference, got charlie scott. and all of a sudden all the other teams integrated. >> yeah. >> is the republican party doing what the acc did? you've got barack obama, we got to bring in herman cain. what is going on here? >> you know, i've given up saying that firsts can't happen, because firsts happen all the time now. so i don't know what's going on. i mean, it's improbable, but --
>> look at the numbers. i want to show you the numbers. everyone thinks herman cain's just dodge ball, another way not to vote for mitt romney, but maybe he is somebody. look at the numbers again. now, 25%. romney is at 21. he's going up, but getting lapped by this guy at some point. gingrich is at 10, paul's at 8, perry's down at 6. perry has lost everything to cain, because cain can talk. >> yeah. cain can talk. and cain takes the positions that this wing of the party likes. immigration really hurt rick perry among the conservative wing of the party. >> they hate illegal immigrants, they hate the government, they hate taxes, they love free enterprise. >> right. and so perry can pass on most of that stuff. but on immigration, that, i think, is more important, really, than his inability to talk. >> you know, i got to go back again to the ethnic factor. we've seen this before, john harrison. we're going to be figuring this out when the voting gets real in iowa, by the way, where he's also sweeping ahead to 37%, cain now, although everything out
there is volatile. you know, what is this? is this the lds factor? is this the fact they think that mitt romney really is a closet -- not a well-closeted moderate republican from massachusetts, that the only conservative game in town happens to be an african-american business guy without political experience. but they're damned determined to vote for a conservative, and he's the real, credible candidate to do that for them. >> well, that's part of it, chris. but i would also say, we've seen throughout this year the candidates are almost like a fashion choice. that they come and go with the season. and people are making a statement about themselves in who they back in these polls, not necessarily making a statement about who they think is going to be the republican nominee. >> but there's nobody waiting in line behind them, john. john, if there's nobody behind him, what's he do? if you can't switch from this guy to the next donald trump or michele bachmann, because
there's none left, don't you get stuck holding this guy as your candidate against mitt romney? >> well, look, the roller-coaster ride isn't necessarily over yet, chris. we've had rides up and down and i think there'll be several more twists and humps to go up and down and over in this race. so i don't accept what you say, that cain is the last man standing as the alternative to romney. he is the one at the moment attracting the most attention and getting quite a ride, but we've seen too many times this cycle somebody rise up and rise down, and in the case of perry, possibly make an effort to come back. so, enjoy the ride. >> gene, remember the old gandhi rule which i always do when i'm feeling low, first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you and then you win. that's what happened to ghandi. here's karl rove proving that he's at the attack speed here. here he is going after this guy, cain, on fox news brought out his whiteboard to list all the reasons why cain isn't up to
being president of the united states. let's listen to the inimitable, the unpleasant, perhaps, karl rove with part of his explanation. >> cain has had a number of misstatements. i mean, we've had abortion, we had earlier this year, that he didn't understand what the right of return was, the palestinian demand for the right of return. he recently said he didn't understand what neoconservatives were when it came to foreign policy. he had a rather odd answer on afghan policy, basically i'll figure it out once i get into office, the sales tax debate, apples and oranges. the whole effect of this is to create an image of him not being up to this task. and that's really deadly for a presidential candidate. >> so smitten with the tablets. i mean, what is the guy doing with this -- he's got this big like mosaic tablet hee and he's like quoting from it. >> did you see the vein in his temple that seemed to be throbbing. i mean, this is driving him nuts, you know, driving the
republican establishment nuts. >> why? >> because people won't -- >> they've lost control. >> right, they've lost control. they think that mitt romney is the guy who can best challenge barack obama, so let's just go with the guy. it's driving them crazy. >> john, is the republican party used to being disciplined. will they please clear the aisles, and clear the aisles at the conventions. they're doing what they're being told, and it's time to pick the candidate and they're resisting mitt. >> there's obviously some of that. i said to you enjoy the ride, but karl rove is saying, no, i'm not enjoying the ride. i don't think this is about a ride. i think this is about who can actually beat barack obama, and the thing on his list, the tablet from the mount, as you say, those are authentic liabilities in any sort of normal year for somebody who wants to be a serious contender for the republican nomination. karl wasn't just making those things up. those are things that are difficult for cain to explain.
those are reasons why we have to wonder whether this souffle will collapse just as michele bachmann's did and rick perry's and some of the others that we've seen in this cycle. >> yeah. again, i go back to you need a souffle though, and he's the last one rising. anyway, i've got to go. thank you, gene robinson, thank you, john harris, of the wonderful politico. coming up, president obama versus mitch mcconnell over whether the wealthy should pay a little more to keep teachers and emergency responders, you know, fire fighters and police, on the post. is the president picking a fight he can win? well, we'll see. that's ahead, and this is "hardball," only on msnbc. co-sd -- "buy books, not beer!" ♪ ♪ but the second that she shut the door ♪ ♪ girl started blowing up their credit score ♪ ♪ she bought a pizza party for her whole dorm floor ♪ ♪ hundred pounds of makeup at the makeup store ♪ ♪ and a ticket down to spring break in mexico ♪ ♪ but her folks didn't know 'cause her folks didn't go ♪ ♪ to free-credit-score-dot-com hard times for daddy and mom. ♪ offer applies with enrollment in freecreditscore.com™. well we're here to get you custom orthotic inserts. we can't afford that. yes we can. dr. scholl's custom fit orthotic center.
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welcome back to "hardball." senate republican leader mitch mcconnell kept his caucus in lockstep last week, as you know, and derailed the president's jobs bill, which would have saved 400,000 jobs for fire fighters, police officers and teachers. when asked to defend his action, mcconnell offered his own perspective on it. >> the question is whether the federal government ought to be raising taxes on 300,000 small businesses in order to send money down to bail out states for whom fire fighters and police work. they are local and state employees. >> well, he gave the president a tool right there, a weapon, if
you will. speaking at a fund-raiser yesterday, president obama called out -- well, he called out senator mcconnell by name for calling the jobs bill a bailout. let's listen. >> but all the republicans in the senate said no. their leader, mitch mcconnell, said, and i'm going to make sure i said that properly, saving the jobs of teachers and cops and fire fighters, and i'm going to quote, was just a bailout, a i quote, a bailout. a bailout. these aren't bad actors who somehow screwed up the economy. they didn't act irresponsibly. these are the men and women who teach our children. who patrol our streets. who run into burning buildings and save people. they deserve our support. >> well, they are laying off a lot of police officers and the president called out mcconnell again today at a san francisco fund-raiser. so obama versus mcconnell. is this a fight the president wants to have?
joan walsh is out there, editor at large of "salon." i guess it's always smart to pick your opponent. he has taken a good look at mitch mcconnell, his absolute negativity. his absolute partisanship and said this guy is who i want in the ring with me, right? >> absolutely. you know, it's totally fair, chris, because it didn't just start last week. you remember this. "the new york times" had a great story about how mitch mcconnell in the dead of winter before the president was inaugurated had a 70% approval rating. republicans were terrified. he brought them together, the senate minority caucus and said if we stick together with 40 votes we can block him. he knew the president for better or worse had campaigned on a promise of bipartisanship and was smart enough to know, guess what, to be bipartisan you need a partner. he committed his caucus to blocking everything the president did. this isn't some new battle that just got picked up last week.
this is an old battle. i'm really, i'm very happy that the president is finally getting in the ring with this guy. >> i think people are paying attention, there's a new poll that came out a couple days ago, it was last week that showed the public had paid attention to the fight over the debt ceiling. they didn't like the performances of eric cantor and the pea party people on the right side. >> right. >> republican side. they said basically, we prefer a democrat controlled majority in the congress. i think mitch mcconnell is caught off base on this. >> i agree. another thing -- >> let's take a look at the president here, what he's up to. he's going to do the "we can't wait plans," we're going to do things by executive order. monday he talked about mortgage relief. today he's talking about jobs for veterans. on wednesday he's talking about student relief. it seems like on student loans, of course, which is killing a lot of kids in their 20s and 30s
now as they become young adults. it seems like he wants to show a positive face of what he can do without a nasty do-nothing congress, at the same time let everybody know they are a do-nothing congress. >> right. it's a very good strategy. i'm really happy to see him doing this. i mean, the other thing we saw after the debt ceiling, chris, is polls said they wanted the president to fight back. that they actually -- republican leaning independents even said we want to see him fight, he shouldn't cave to these guys, they've gone too far. so i think you saw the polls and he's now doing what's right and what's in his heart. you know, i think the student loan issue is exactly what you're saying, it's driving occupy wall street. these kids are coming out of college and they're paying in student loans what people used to pay in mortgages for their first home. so they can't buy a first home. we have veterans coming home, thank god, from iraq. wouldn't it be nice if they came
home to jobs rather than unemployment? so these are winning issues, mortgage obviously as well. these are winning issues. he can do something on his own. i'm happy to see him taking that strategy. at the same time, keeping the fight up and letting americans know he tried to have a partner and he couldn't find one. >> thanks a lot. great having you on, joan walsh. when we return, let me finish with why the fight for the republican nomination is defying the norm. it's bizarre with this guy cain winning. what are they up to? let me finish tonight with this. you have to wonder what's going on in the republican party this season. if it were a regular republicano or a prune. and i like both, i just don't want to look like one. covergirl and olay simply ageless foundation has regenerist serum and floats above lines and makes you look younger. you will look so young people will be like "how is that baby driving a minivan?" "who let the baby into the bar?" and so on. can your anti-aging makeup do that? ♪ simply ageless from olay and easy, breezy beautiful, covergirl.
falling for a presidential candidate by now. they would have a favorite and would be getting ready to run him against the democratic incumbent. this would especially be the case when the man in the white house looks to be vulnerable. it's not happening. what we're seeing now is not the normal republican situation where you have a candidate gaining strength. we're seeing the opposite. we have a moderate republican mitt romney sitting on about a quarter of the vote and one candidate after another popping up as his number one alternative. there was all that insiders excitement about governor mitch daniels of indiana and then a big dustup over haley barbour of mississippi, then came donald trump before he blew the birther issue. we had congresswoman and michele bachmann who rose up and then dropped. we all got excited about governor rick perry of texas as a conservative prospect and then saw him flounder in tv debates, and now, herman cain is dominating numbers and matching mitt romney in a way that must make romney think anybody but
him will always get a number equal to or higher than him. you know what year this one is beginning to resemble, 1964. in that year one candidate, henry calfodge won new hampshire and another won, nelson rockefeller won the oregon primary, and still another, arizona senator barry goldwater won california and with it the nomination. this has been a political season much like that. one candidate after another, popping up then flattening out. could it be that we're watching the same situation now as in '64? when the republican party lost big? the republicans aren't happy with their presumed candidate so they're shopping around for someone else. anyone else. one difference is the timing, of course, with the caucuses and the primaries pushed up to new years. the election campaign this time is being fought out months ahead of when it was in '64. what's the same in the relentless rejection of the front-runner. the only question is whether mitt romney can lose the nomination